Leadership Sources of Power

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Information about Leadership Sources of Power
Business & Mgmt

Published on February 25, 2014

Author: HJustice

Source: slideshare.net


Power refers to the capacity to influence others. So where does it come from? Have you ever wondered why some managers seem like natural leaders? Or perhaps you are interested in what power you hold over others? View this quick course on the five sources identified by John French and Bertram H. Raven.

Holly Justice Leadership Sources of Power An explanation of the theory by John French and Bertram H. Raven

Sources of Power Power refers to the capacity to influence others. So where does it come from? Have you ever wondered why some managers seem like natural leaders? Or perhaps you are interested in what power you hold over others?


Legitimate power is the formal authority granted through the organization and job description. A project manager is placed in charge of a project team so they may delegate tasks. A supervisor is given legitimate power over their subordinates so they can ask for a range of behaviors from the new employee. One will find this power source useful as you begin leading any team, however it cannot be relied upon alone to make you an effective leader. Legitimate


As leaders we may be granted both control over what others value and the ability to change negative aspects of the job giving us reward power. We see reward power used when a manager gives salary increases based on performance or when a supervisor replaces faulty equipment. Reward

Rewards can be as simple as allowing a person to work on a special project or attend training, granting favorable shifts or bringing in pizza. If employees are given feedback systems to evaluate their managers or co-workers, they also hold reward power. The risk in using only reward power is that you may have a limited supply or the rewards may become too commonplace, losing their power. Reward


Both team leaders and members may apply coercive power, the ability to punish with the goal of compliance. Punishment is an old fashioned “carry a big stick” management style. Managers who use this power threaten to fire or layoff employees who fail to meet their standards. Coercive

Team members apply coercive power through gossip or open demands of co-workers when they break the team norms. Coercive power often results in negative relationships since adults naturally resent being punished. With today’s intelligent workforce, using coercive power alone will result in a team who comply with orders only when the manager is watching. Coercive

Organizational Sources of Power Reward

Organizational Sources of Power Legitimate, reward and coercive power are all associated with the organization. The company, your team and where your job sits in the corporate ladder will influence how these sources of power may be available to you. Reward


Many leaders become successful due to their own personal power sources. Have you ever noticed the respect we give to experts who help us solve problems? Expert power comes from specialized knowledge. A software engineer who arrives with a specialized skill set may have considerable influence on the team’s decisions and direction even if that person lacks any organizational power. Expert


The charismatic individual has referent power. We follow them because we admire their personality and wish to be like them. Who is your office celebrity, the person everyone wants to follow? Referent

Personal Sources of Power Those who hold expert and referent power may move their power from one group to another because they hold it personally. A charismatic politician may be elected to several different positions. An expert computer security guru may job hop from organization to organization. Expert Referent

Expert Referent Organizational & Personal Sources of Power Reward

Power Combinations When we look at all five sources of power it is the combinations that are most interesting. Expert Referent Reward

New Supervisor Example A new supervisor may rely heavily on the use of legitimate and coercive power. Without reward, referent or expert power, the team will often comply outwardly with the supervisor, but will secretly work against the supervisor’s formal and oppressive style. Legitimate Coercive

Abandoned Team Example A manager who abandons their team, giving neither feedback or rewards for good performance is withholding their legitimate or reward power. Within abandoned teams employees may take on a leadership role by exercising their expert or referent power. Some employees may use a form of punishment, such as leaving others undesirable tasks, in order to force their coworkers to comply to their own standards. Expert Referent Coercive

Project Manager Example A charming project manager may use legitimate and referent power to influence their team. Project managers often have a limited ability to reward or punish team members for failing to perform. The charismatic manager may recruit a technical person to co-lead the team, adding an expert power source. Expert Legitimate Referent

John French and Bertram H. Raven In 1959, John French and Bertram H. Raven examined the five different sources that come from the organization and the individual. Expert Referent Reward

Discussion Based on the five source model, what power combinations do you use to influence others in your daily activities? Expert Referent Reward

Discussion What combinations do you see others in your organization use? Expert Referent Reward

What’s your vote? http://hjustice.wordpress.com/leadershipsources-of-power-poll Which power sources do you see your boss use to influence others? Which power sources do you use in your daily activities to influence others?

More Information Online http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/new LDR_56.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(social_a nd_political) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Ra ven's_five_bases_of_power http://changingminds.org/explanations/pow er/french_and_raven.htm

Holly Justice Leadership Sources of Power An explanation of the theory by John French and Bertram H. Raven

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